Iraq’s Most Powerful Politician Just Caused a ‘Tectonic Shift’


The resignation of the entire group of 73 lawmakers from the Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has been the biggest shock to Iraqi politics since the October elections in which Iran-backed Shia blocs lost seats to the sadrists. The sadrists now seem to have stepped back from parliamentary politics.

“This is a tectonic shift that threatens to derail the post-2003 political order as a whole,” said Ranj Alaaldin, a non-resident fellow in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, DC.

In a handwritten statement, Sadr said his request to his lawmakers to step down was “a sacrifice from me to the country and the people to rid them of the unknown fate”.

Sajad Jiyad, a fellow at the Washington DC think tank The Century Foundation, said the move “has changed political discourse.”

The cleric is immensely popular in Iraq. For years, he has pitted himself against both Iran and the United States, and in October he emerged as the biggest winner in a parliamentary election that threatened to sideline Iran-affiliated Shia blocs that had long dominated the oil-rich country’s politics.
But politics has been at a stalemate ever since, as bickering and corruption allegations have delayed presidential elections and hampered the formation of a government.
“If the Sadrist Bloc Stays” [in parliament] If there is an obstacle to the formation of a government, all lawmakers of the bloc are honorably ready to resign from parliament,” Sadr said in a televised address on Thursday, paving the way for the resignation.

Experts say that under the procedure, once a legislator resigns and the process is completed, the next legislator with the largest number of votes will replace it.

“This will redistribute 73 parliamentary seats across different political blocs,” wrote Abbas Kadhim, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank. on Twitteradding that the Iran-affiliated Shiites are expected to take those seats, along with some independents.

So is Sadr giving in to Iran-backed groups, or is this just an attempt to show his power on the streets, where he has huge influence? Analysts say it will likely be the latter.

“Sadr’s secret weapon is his vast grassroots network of supporters and dominance on the streets,” Alaaldin said, adding that “the withdrawal of Sadrist MPs is a signal of intent to confront his rivals on the streets.”

The resignation came after Iran-affiliated Shia blocs resisted Sadr’s government-building initiative, said Ihsan Al-Shammari, a professor of politics at the University of Baghdad and head of the Iraqi Center for Political Thought. It also comes as Sadr realizes that he cannot create a majority national government with the obstruction of the rival bloc.

Sadr can signal to his supporters that he has done everything he can to try to form a government with his Iran-affiliated Shia rivals, Jiyad said. The move could also pose a threat to other parties, showing them they can’t live without him, he added.

The cleric’s influence is far from diminishing, Al-Shammari said. “Sadr will continue towards the popular opposition…I think [this] will double his political power.”

Analysts say the sideline of Sadr and his party from the government will lead to chaos, and any government that emerges from Sadr’s isolation will be “a dead one.”

“This will provoke anger from Iraqis and Sadr’s supporters,” Al-Shammari said. “They will not agree to their leader being politically broken or isolated.”

the summary

US-sanctioned Iran and Venezuela sign 20-year cooperation agreement

Iran and Venezuela signed a 20-year cooperation plan in Tehran on Saturday, with the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader saying the two allies will continue to resist pressure from Washington.

  • Background: The plan includes increased cooperation in the oil, petrochemical, defense, agriculture and tourism sectors. The signing was overseen by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro in northern Tehran. Maduro also said a weekly flight from Caracas to Tehran would begin on July 18.
  • Why it matters: The two oil producers are under crippling US sanctions. Ties between them have grown closer, especially within their oil sectors in what Iran says is resistance to US pressure.

UAE Bans ‘Lightyear’ Film Screening Over Content Violation

The United Arab Emirates banned public screening of the Walt Disney-Pixar animated film “Lightyear” in cinemas on Monday ahead of its release this week, a government agency said. The Media Regulatory Office of the Ministry of Youth and Culture wrote on Twitter that the film violated the country’s media content standards, without specifying the violation.

  • Background: The film reportedly features a same-sex kiss between two women who are in a relationship. Like many other countries in the Middle East, same-sex relationships are criminalized in the UAE. The film, which stars the action figure Buzz Lightyear from the popular Toy Story franchise series, was already announced for release in the UAE on June 16.
  • Why it matters: The UAE has in the past avoided joining neighboring Arab countries in banning same-sex themed movies. Censors in Arab states have recently banned such films as production studios refuse cuts. Movies like the Eternals and Doctor Strange 2 were banned in several Arab countries this year, but not in the UAE.

NATO chief says Turkey’s security concerns are legitimate

The security concerns expressed by Turkey in its opposition to Finland and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership are legitimate, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to Finland on Sunday. “We must remember and understand that no NATO ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkiye,” Stoltenberg said.

  • Background: Sweden and Finland said last month they planned to join the Western Defense Alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But they have faced opposition from Turkey, which accused them of supporting and harboring Kurdish militants and other groups it considers terrorists.
  • Why it matters: Despite being a member of NATO, Turkey has maintained good ties with Moscow while waging war against Ukraine. All member states must approve new entrants to NATO’s military alliance.

Around the region

A 98-million-year-old fossil discovered six years ago in the Egyptian desert turns out to be a new species of large-bodied carnivorous dinosaur.

An expedition team from Egypt’s Mansoura University unearthed the fossil in 2016 in the Bahariya Oasis in the country’s western desert region. Northeast Africa.”

The species, whose name is not yet known, belongs to a family of dinosaurs called “Abelisauridae,” described by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History as “a type of bulldog-headed, small-toothed, small-armed theropod estimated to have a body length of about six meters (20 feet). ) been.”

“The Bahariya Oasis would have been one of the most terrifying places on Earth…how all these massive predators managed to coexist remains a mystery,” study leader Belal Salem said through the Carnegie Museum.

The oasis is a gold mine for paleontologists because of the variety of fossils found there. Unfortunately, all the fossils collected there before World War II were destroyed. In 1944, a collection of fossils discovered by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer was destroyed by Allied bombs that hit a building that housed the collection in Munich.

By Mohammed Abdelbary

Photo of the day

Sheep are being rescued on June 12 after a ship crammed with thousands of animals sank in the Sudanese port city of Suakin on the Red Sea, drowning most of the animals on board.  The cattle ship was exporting the animals from Sudan to Saudi Arabia when it sank after loading thousands more animals on board than it was intended to carry.

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